Allow Natural Death

The origins of “Allow Natural Death”

Allow Natural Death is a model of care that can be used in place of, or in addition to, the Do Not Resuscitate Orders that may be chosen or declined when a person is hospitalized. This is the simplest definition of the formalized use of “Allow Natural Death”. Allow Natural Death is already being used this way in facilities in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, California and Virginia. You can find a more detailed description of the concept of Allow Natural Death on other pages and posts on this website.

The basic concepts of allowing natural death are hardly new. Before the widespread use of antibiotics in the 1940’s, the circumstances of death were not open to discussion. Serious disease most often ran a quick course to death with little or no treatment available.The focus was on comfort rather than cure. Pneumonia was sometimes called “the old person’s friend” when it took the life of an already frail elder. And home was where death most often occurred. Death was commonplace in the lives of Americans who became so comfortable with the dead in their midst that they often were posed for formal portraits to be kept as treasured keepsakes by the family.

In the 1970’s, followers of the back to nature movement began to turn away from the medical establishment as they advocated both home birth and home death. But the first person to advocate for the formal use of Allow Natural Death, in a hospital setting, was Reverend Chuck Meyer. Reverend Meyer was a hospital chaplain whose observations of end of life care moved him to write an article for the Hospice Patient’s Alliance. In response to the aggressive, life prolonging treatments (feeding tubes, hemodialysis, intubation/ventiliation, antibiotics, intravenous fluids) that he saw being given to terminal or dying patients, he suggested that the use of Allow Natural Death would eliminate suffering by ensuring that only comfort measures would be provided in such cases. He wrote that, for families being asked to make end of life decisions for a loved one, the use of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) “is harsh, insensitive, and downright confusing.” And that DNR should be replaced with a gentler and more definitive approach – Allow Natural Death. In 1987 Allow Natural Death was formally adopted at Saint David’s Round Rock Medical Center in Austin, Texas. It is available there in addition to the formal Do Not Resuscitate order.

You can read the entire article from Reverend Meyer here: